Researchers seek help tracking garden finches

Researchers from the British Trust for Ornithology (BTO) have seen lower numbers of Siskin and Bullfinch in gardens in the first half of this year and are encouraging people to watch their birdhouses to keep track of these colorful garden visitors for the coming weeks.

For over 25 years, participants in the BTO Garden Birdwatch (GBW) survey have been observing the birds in their gardens and sharing their weekly observations with the trust’s scientists. These observations show that two of our most colorful finches were less common in gardens in the first half of the year, but things may soon change.

Siskin, a small, black-and-yellow-green finch, is usually seen in large numbers in gardens in February and March but remains an uncommon visitor in the fall. Very unusual, this year Siskins have been seen in very few Garden BirdWatch gardens in the spring, but in the past few weeks they have been seen in many more gardens than usual. These patterns are likely related to the availability of natural food, especially the seeds of conifers, and BTO researchers predict this winter and next spring will be busy times for Siskins at birdhouses.

Siskin, Copyright Tony Davison, from the Surfbirds Galleries

Bullfinch is a large finch with a black cap and beautiful pink breast feathers in the male. Bullfinches feed on seeds and are most commonly seen in garden bird feeders from November through July. However, this year the numbers were lower than normal. BTO researchers do not know why this is so, so are asking for help from the public to keep an eye out for these birds visiting their garden feeding stations in the coming weeks.

Kate Risely, organizer of BTO Garden BirdWatch, says, “BTO Garden Birdwatchers’ observations provide amazingly detailed information on how birds use our gardens year-round. This helps us understand exactly how to help our garden birds when they need it most, for example by keeping the bird feeders full in cold weather. These regular records also help us to know when something is happening to our garden birds, and we are particularly interested in seeing what happens to Siskin and Bullfinch numbers this winter. “

Everyone can participate in BTO Garden BirdWatch and send their observations to BTO. It’s free and a great way to keep kids entertained, provide valuable science, while also helping our garden birds.

BTO Garden BirdWatch’s observations show that now is an important time to replenish bird feeders and provide food for your garden birds. It’s also an ideal time to get a closer look at your garden birds by simply recording the birds and their visit. For more information, including supporting resources on these garden birds, visit


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